Towards the beginning of his reign, the previously prayerful King David dramatically fell from grace. He had an affair with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, who was one of his most loyal soldiers. To cover up the scandal, he then had Uriah killed.
It all began when King David was walking on his palace roof one evening. From there he spied Bathsheba, who was a beautiful woman, taking a bath. He sent for her and they slept together. However, Bathsheba then discovered that she was pregnant, which was a huge problem for the king.
He tried to fix things by encouraging Uriah to spend the night with his wife, so that he would think that the baby was his. When that didn’t work, he arranged for Uriah to be sent into battle – and positioned right on the front-line. When the army attacked the city of Rabbah, Uriah was then killed by enemy archers.
When Bathsheba learned of her husband’s death, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, however, she joined King David at the palace. She became his wife and gave birth to a son. According to the Second Book of Samuel, however, God was not pleased with this shocking behaviour.
He therefore sent the prophet Nathan to the king, to set him straight. Nathan told him a parable about a cruel rich man who stole a poor man’s lamb. When David realised that this story was actually about him, he repented of his sin. It’s thought that he wrote Psalm 51, which is a prayer of deep repentance, at this time.
Preaching about David, Pope Benedict XVI explained: “The passage concerning him, taken from the Second Book of Samuel, presents to us one of the most dramatic conversions in the Old Testament. A burning verdict lies at the heart of this dialogue, with which the Word of God, uttered by the Prophet Nathan, exposes a king who had reached the summit of his political fortune but had also fallen to the lowest level of his moral life.”
He added: “Blinded by his passion for Bathsheba, he wrenches her from her husband, one of his most faithful warriors, and then orders his assassination in cold blood. This is something that makes one shudder: how could a man chosen by God fall so low?”
The pope concluded that all humans are capable of both great things and serious evil. Fortunately, David saw the error of his ways. As Scripture later says: “David did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.” (1 Kings 15:5)
This stained glass scene of King David’s scandalous relationship with Bathsheba is found within the church of Sacred Heart and St Teresa, in Coleshill. It’s part of a window that contains scenes relating to the Ninth Commandment, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife.” It was made by Gilbert Sheedy in 1950.
Here we see King David getting close to Bathsheba as her poor husband marches off to war in the background. However, she seems less enthusiastic about the whole thing. The comic-book style of this image is reflected in the other windows in the church (such as this and these), which illustrate all Ten Commandments.
See the full image:
Where to find this work of art
Sacred Heart and St Teresa, Coleshill
Read the relevant passage
2 Samuel 11:1-12:15